Bowery Number 3

When New Amsterdam was under the control of the Dutch East India Company, the company laid out several large farms, or boweries, in the countryside northeast of the city for the use of company officers. The largest and best of these farms was Bowery Number 1, a 120-acre plot reserved for the Director General and granted in 1651 to Petrus Stuyvesant, the last director under Dutch control of the island.

South of Bowery Number 1 was Bowery Number 2, also granted to Stuyvesant. Bowery Number 3 was situated south of the second bowery and was granted to Gerrit Hendrcksen in 1645 and 1654. All three boweries were bordered on the west by the Bowery Lane, corresponding to modern Bowery.

Bowery Number 3
The Schout’s Bowery, Bowery Number 3
Image via NYPL Digital Collection

 Also called the Schout’s Bowery, Bowery Number 3 was about 50 acres and was sold to Phillip Minthorne, who divided the western half of the property into nine individual farms, one for each of his children. (Much of the eastern half of the bowery was sold to John Jacob Astor.) This fanlike arrangements of Minthorne farms is clearly visible in the 1776 Ratzer map below.

Minthorne Farm 1776
The Minthorne Farms, 1776
Image via NYPL Digital Collection

By the early 19th Century, the city had grown into the southernmost of the Minthorne farms. The farms were located at the intersection of the old city and the new rectangular street grid adopted in 1811 and some oddly-shaped parcels were created where the old property lines clashed with the new parallel streets. When John Randel surveyed the island beginning in 1818, this clash was evident.

Randel Map of Farms
Minthorne Farm Lines in the New Grid Plan
North Street is now East Houston, and has been widened to the north.
Image via Museum of the City of New York

What is remarkable is that some 200 years later, the patterns of these early farms are still evident, as can be seen in the current New York City tax maps that show modern property lines.

2013 Tax Map
Many current property lines follow the old boundaries of the Minthorne farms.
Image via nyc.gov

The angled south wall of this building at East 1st Street and 2nd Avenue (Block 443, Lot 7 above) runs parallel to the old southern boundary of Bowery Number 3, which is marked by the angled fence in the lot south of the building (Lot 6 above).

E 1st and 2nd Ave
East 1st Street and 2nd Avenue
Image via Google Maps

Several of the northern Minthorne farms belonged to Mangle Minthorne by 1818, and most of the eastern half of the old Schout’s Bowery belonged to John Jacob Astor. That meant fewer boundaries to thwart the grid, so modern property lines in the rest of the area were oriented to the parallel streets. There is one exception, however, where a small portion of the old northern border of Bowery Number 3 is still evident.

Hillyer Farm
The diagonal property line in this block marks part of the northern boundary of Bowery Number 3.
Image via nyc.gov

Looking back at Randel’s farm map, it appears this diagonal property line corresponds with the northern line of the farm of William Hillyer, which was carved from the eastern half of the old bowery, surrounded by Astor property.

HIllyer 1818
Part of the northern line of Bowery Number 3 (in blue), bordering the farm of William Hillyer.
Image via Museum of the City of New York

The modern map holds another ghost of the Minthorne farms in the blind alley called Extra Place.

Extra Place
Image via openstreetmap.org

The story goes that when Phillip Minthorne was dividing his property into nine equal portions for his heirs, there was a small oddly-shaped “extra” plot at the southwest corner. This plot is visible on the Ratzer map below. Modern Extra Place stands at the eastern border of this parcel.

Extra Place
The “extra” Minthorne parcel
Posted in Bowery, Lower East Side, Streets | Leave a comment

Shoemakers Land

Shoemakers Land
James Evetts’ 1696 chart of the Shoemakers Land

In 1675 four New Yorkers purchased a tract of land outside the city wall that had earlier been part of the farm of Cornelis van Tienhoven, the Dutch Colonial Secretary. The buyers, Conraet Ten Eyck, Caarsen Leersen, Jacob Abrams and John Harpendingh were all tanners and shoemakers. A fifth shoemaker, Cornelius Clopper, added his adjoining land and the parcel became known as the “Shoemakers Land.”

The plot, containing about 17 acres, was situated northeast of the intersection of Broadway and Maiden Lane. It was bordered on the north by what would become Ann Street and on the east by the fence of Dirck Vandercliff’s orchard, about midway between William and what is now Gold Street. For 20 years it continued to be farmed to the benefit of it owners, but by 1696 the city had grown beyond the fortification at Wall Street and the shoemakers saw an opportunity. They hired James Evetts, the City Surveyor, to divide the acreage into nine blocks containing 164 lots to be divided equally among the owners, with the intention of renting the lots for the construction of houses.

Within the plot ran William Street (an extension of King George Street) and Nassau Street (an extension of Kip Street) both laid out some time prior to 1687. Two east-west streets were also laid out: Fair Street, which is now Fulton, and John Street (named for John Harpendingh, one of the shoemakers), which retains its original name.

What makes the Shoemakers Land remarkable in the history of Manhattan streets is that it is one of the earliest examples of a large section of farmland being divided into more or less uniform rectangular lots. This practice would of course become typical as the city continued to expand.

Although not named on Evetts’ plan, what would become Dutch Street is visible as a gap in the row of lots along Fair and John Streets, providing access to a section of vacant land in the center of the block. The name Dutch Street is probably a reference to the Dutch Reformed Church, of which John Harpendingh was a generous benefactor. Harpendingh left six of his lots to the church in 1723, located in the eastern half of present-day block 91, bordered by Ann, William, Fulton and Nassau Streets. The North Dutch Church was built on this property in 1767.

Block 91
Block 91, Manhattan

Although most of the lots of the Shoemakers Land have been sold, combined, and resold many times in the intervening 300 years, their original property lines can still be discerned on current maps. Block 91, for example, still holds several of the original 25-foot through lots surveyed by Evetts in 1696, and some internal property lines in blocks 68, 77 and 93 still follow the line of Dirck Vandercliff’s orchard fence.

Vandercliff's Fence
Line of Dirck Vandercliff’s orchard fence, 1696

References:

Evetts, James. A map or chart of a certain tract of land commonly call’d the Shoemakers Land. Manuscript, 1696. Reprinted in Stokes, I. N. Phelps, F. C. Wieder, Victor Hugo Paltsits, and Sidney Lawton Smith. The iconography of Manhattan island, 1498-1909. New York: R.H. Dodd, 1915. v1, plate 24-a, 236.

New York City. Digital Tax Map. Department of Finance, 2013. http://gis.nyc.gov/taxmap/map.htm

Posted in Lower Manhattan, Streets | Leave a comment

Coogan Avenue

New Avenue East in 1885

James J. Coogan was a furniture man. Furniture men were not held in high esteem among the working class of 19th-Century New York City but were viewed as a necessary evil. Perfectly happy to fill your home with beds, tables and chairs sold on “easy terms,” the furniture man was just as happy to show up suddenly and cart them all away again should you miss a single installment. It is perhaps then understandable why Luke Jordan would sing in his 1927 song “Cocaine Blues,” If it ever was a devil born without any horns, it must’ve been the furniture man.

James J. Coogan was a furniture man, and a wealthy one at that. From his operation on the Bowery he amassed a considerable fortune selling (and reselling) furniture to the residents of the Lower East Side. His marriage to Harriet Lynch, daughter of the prosperous landowner William Lynch, brought valuable Hamilton Heights real estate under his control. By 1886, Coogan felt he had suitable stature to be a viable candidate for mayor.

Coogan first courted the endorsement of the Committe of 100 of the Citizens’ Association, a non-partisan group nominally dedicated to better city government. Coogan, along with several other businessmen, helped organize and fund the group. Perhaps suspecting that Coogan’s intention was to receive its nomination for mayor, the group passed a by-law that none of its own members would be endorsed as candidates.

Rebuffed by the city’s elite, Coogan tried to make the best of it and turned to the working men of the city. Denouncing the Citizens’ Association as a tool of “capitalists,” he began courting the nomination of the Central Labor Union, a federation of city trade unions. Should the labor group offer their endorsement and nomination, he told them, he would personally put up $200,000 of his own money in support of the campaign (about $5 million in 2013 dollars.)

But James J. Coogan was a furniture man. At the boisterous nomination convention of the Central Labor Union in September, 1886, his few delegates were sharply and sarcastically shouted down by working men who had probably had dealings with Coogan, or others in the same business. In the final vote of the proceedings Coogan received just 31 votes of some 400 cast, with the vast majority of support for Henry George, the author of several pro-labor reform books.

Over the next two years Coogan apparently worked on his reputation among the laborers of the city for in 1888 he was enthusiastically given the nomination of the United Labor Party, cheered by many of the same delegates who had hissed him at the earlier convention. Coogan did not win the election of 1888, receiving about 10,000 votes that he estimated cost him roughly $10 each in campaign expenses. The winner that year was 30-year-old Hugh J. Grant, a Tammany Democrat who was (and still is) the youngest person ever to hold the office.

Baseball fans on Coogan’s Bluff above the Polo Grounds, 1908.

Much of the property Harriet Coogan would later inherit was in Hamilton Heights, including a long valley edged on the west by a high rock outcropping that came to be known as Coogan’s Bluff. In 1872 two new avenues were laid out in the area, one along the top of the bluff and one near its base. Unnamed at first, the avenues were mapped simply as “New Avenue West” and “New Avenue East.” By 1884 the upper avenue had come to be called Edgecombe Avenue for its location along the top of the bluff. By 1888 the lower avenue was referred to as Coogan Avenue, after James and Harriet Coogan.

Neither name was official, however, in that they had not been formally designated by the Board of Aldermen. This was certainly not uncommon in the history of Manhattan street names. Prior to the implementation of the Commissioners’ Plan in 1811, street names were often first designated by owners of the property through which they were opened and then later officially adopted (or not) by the city. It may have been James Coogan himself who first assigned the names. Despite their unofficial standing, the names obtained quasi-official status through common usage, published maps, and signage put up by the street department.

On the day after the mayoral election of 1888 it was discovered that someone presumedly in opposition to Coogan’s candidacy had removed all the street signs along Coogan Avenue. The matter was brought to the attention of the Board of Aldermen who looked back into the minutes and found no record that the name Coogan had ever been officially designated. On January 23rd 1889, on the motion of newly-elected Alderman John Carlin, the street was officially named Bradhurst Avenue after another nearby landowner, Dr. Samuel Bradhurst, thereby erasing the name of the failed candidate from the map.

There seems little doubt the renaming was politically motivated. Although Carlin was not a Tammany politician like Mayor Grant, he and the other Aldermen may have seen an opportunity to ingratiate themselves with the new mayor. (Carlin would go on to be associated closely with Jay Gould, supporting Gould’s plans to expand the city’s elevated railways.) The aldermen had also been made aware in 1889 that Edgecombe had never been named formally by the board, but saw no need to bestow an official name to the avenue until 1898 when it was extended past 155th Street.

As for James J. Coogan, he once again embraced his enemies in defeat as he had done the workingmen in 1886, and cultivated his friendship with Richard Croker, the leader of Tammany Hall. In 1899, after a decade of service to Croker, Coogan was rewarded by being elected President of what was now the Borough of Manhattan in the newly-consolidated City of New York.

 

Posted in Hamilton Heights, Signs | 2 Comments